HPU Men’s Cross Country Wins Blue Ridge Open Title

• The Panthers won their second title in three events so far this season
• HPU took three of the top six spots and five of the top 12 in the event
• Junior Jeff LaCoste (3rd, 20:17.01) and senior Chris Colo (4th, 20:19.88) earned top-5 finishes

BOONE, N.C. – Behind three top-6 finishes, the High Point University men’s cross country team captured the Blue Ridge Open title Friday afternoon on the campus of Appalachian State University.

The victory was HPU’s second in three events so far this season. The Purple & White also won the Gardner-Webb Invitational in September.

The Panthers took five of the top 12 spots in Boone to win the race with a total of 19 points. Wake Forest placed second with 51 points, while Furman (75) and Northern Kentucky (106) finished third and fourth, respectively. Host Appalachian State finished fifth (112), while East Carolina (6th, 163), Coastal Carolina (7th, 197), Lenoir-Rhyne (8th, 229) and Lees-McRae (9th, 267) rounded out the field.

“One of our goals is always to win and I think that’s a good habit to get into,” head coach Mike Esposito said. “We had a couple people struggle and other people really stepped up today. Our depth is definitely our strength.”

Junior Jeff LaCoste led the Panthers for the third time in as many events this season. The Amherst, N.H., native earned a third-place finish in the 6400m event with a time of 20:17.01. Senior Chris Colo continued his excellent senior campaign with a fourth-place finish (20:19.88) while junior Paddy Grandinali was sixth in 20:20.84. Freshman Ryan Udvadia rounded out the Panther top-10 with a ninth-place showing (20:42.94).

Freshman James Quattlebaum notched a 12th-place finish in 20:47.53, while junior Benji Szalai was 18th in 20:52.07.

“Ryan Udvadia really stepped up and it was good to get Benji back in the mix,” Esposito said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of depth in the race but there were some good individual competitors in there so that was good for us. Some of those kids are in that range that we’re going to have to be able to beat to win the conference and to do what we want to do in the region.”

Sophomore Chernet Sisay placed 38th in 21:23.60, while senior Reece Ayers (43rd, 21:27.87) and sophomore Vinny Todaro (48th, 21:51.95) were close behind. Junior Cody Seymour (51st, 21:58.69) rounded out the Panther pack in 51st.

“All the hay’s not in the barn but our kids have done all the right things,” Esposito added. “The preparation has been excellent. All we need to do now is to fine tune a few things. We’re looking at two big races coming up – conference and regionals. All of our goals are still in front of us and I really like how they’re carrying themselves right now.”